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September 16, 2014

Complements of Mosquito Creek Outdoors, Apopka, FL

Homosassa River's Waterfront Fish Market

Homosassa River's Waterfront Fish Market

Events and Seminars:

September 18, 2014, from 6 a.m. to midnight CT, the Central Florida chapter of Heroes on the Water (HOW) is participating in Giving Day. That day, every donation $25 and above will be multiplied when you donate through this link:

This Week's Crystal River, Homosassa Fishing Report

For those of you who've followed my fishing and outdoor reports for a while know every now and then I wonder away from my familiar stomping grounds and explore adventure elsewhere, well this was one of those glorious occasions.

During our travels this past week, my lovely bride Sandi and I escaped to Citrus County on Florida's west central coast to attend the Florida Outdoor Writers Association's annual conference in Crystal River, Florida. Our accommodations for this excursion were the magnificent Plantation on Crystal River where we were greeted by cheerful and courteous staff along the banks of the quiet and peaceful Crystal River. Located just an hour northwest of Orlando. The Plantation is the place to stay if you plan a visit to either Crystal River or Homosassa or just looking to escape from reality for a few days. Located on the water, the Plantation includes on site marina and dive shop, guide services, fine dinning, boat ramp, boat slips with easy access to the Gulf of Mexico, and a championship golf course.

Plantation on Crystal River

Plantation on Crystal River

On our first evening we were treated to an exclusive back stage tour of the Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park were enjoyed an evening of wildlife viewing and our welcome reception. The park showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles, and river otters. Visitors can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park's underwater observatory in the main spring as well as snook, sheepshead and other species of fish.

Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Homosassa Springs Wildlife Park

Lu the resident Homosassa Hippo

Lu the resident Homosassa Hippo

Visit Homosassa Just Be Claws

Visit Homosassa Just Be Claws

The Homosassa and Crystal River areas are renowned for scalloping during the summer and as a lifelong Florida native I've never been once, so I opted join some friends for a day of diving for scallops instead of fishing, and I'm glad I did. Our adventure began when we met up with Captain Rick Burns of Reel Burns Charters and his best mate Renee at Macrea's of Homosassa. Soon we were under way heading out the Little Homosassa River to the grass flats west of Crystal River.

Although we were diving near the end of scallop season, Captain Rich and Renee knew exactly where to start, and in a matter of minutes from hitting the water, I was no longer a scallop virgin. Captain Rick's a veteran Homosassa Fishing Guide who offers fishing charters year round, scalloping during the summer season and manatee swimming trips during the winter in the springs, and it's well worth the expense to acquire his services for any of these excursions.

Homosassa Bay Scallops

Homosassa Bay Scallops

After snorkeling for several hours we returned for a quick refreshing swim in the 72-degree waters Homosassa Springs and finished our day at Neon Zeon's where the staff prepared a fresh catch lunch of bay scallops, Cajun pasta and beer. Named after the legendary bass guitarist Leon Wilkeson of the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynard, Neon Zeon's Zydeco Steak House is not only a great place to eat, it's a most visit for anyone who enjoys the history of American rock and roll.

Scalloping Crew at Neon Leon's

Scalloping Crew at Neon Leon's

Although the entire week was great fun, the highlight of the trip for me was being honored by the Florida Outdoor Writers Association as the recipient of the Bass Pro Shop's Pass It On Award for the volunteer work I do with the Anglers For Conservation's Hook Kids on Fishing Program in Central Florida.

Jill Zima Borski and Rob Modys presenting the Bass Pro Shop's Pass it on Award

Jill Zima Borski and Rob Modys presenting the Bass Pro Shop's Pass it on Award

It's always great to escape from reality for a few days and visit with my FOWA family, and I promise I'll be back to Homosassa sooner than you think.

Visit for your outdoor adventure needs, its Where the Adventure Begins!

Fishing Forecast

September, 2014

Complements of Mosquito Creek Outdoors, Apopka, FL

Joan's Mullet Run Redfish
Joan's Mullet Run Redfish

Events and Seminars

The Florida Coastal Office is holding a series of public meetings to receive public comment on the draft Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves Management Plan, including Banana River, Indian River-Malabar to Vero Beach, Indian River-Vero Beach to Ft. Pierce and Jensen Beach to Jupiter Inlet aquatic preserves. The draft plan is available for viewing or download at The Indian River Lagoon Aquatic Preserves Management Plan Advisory Committee will be participating.

Meeting Dates and Locations

Monday, September 22, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Fenn Center
200- Virginia Avenue
Ft. Pierce, Florida 34982

Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Indian River County Administration Complex
Building A, County Commission Chamber
1801 27th Street
Vero Beach, FL 32960

Wednesday, September 24, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Martin County Commission Chambers
1st Floor
2401 SE Monterey Road
Stuart, FL 34996

Thursday, September 25, 2014, 6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Brevard County Government Center
County Commission Chambers
2725 Judge Fran Jamiesen Way
Viera, FL 32940

Written comments are welcome and can be submitted by mail to 3300 Lewis Street, Ft. Pierce, FL 34981 or by email by Friday, October 24, 2014

Sam's IRL Redfish caught on a DOA Bait Buster

Sam's IRL Redfish caught on a DOA Bait Buster

September Fishing Outlook

Mullet Madness

As we approach the backside of summer on Florida's east central coast, shorter days, prevailing easterly breezes and longer cooler nights signal the approach of fall. All of these signs are also natural indicators signaling prey and predator alike that spawning season is over and it's once again time to fatten up and return south to warmer waters.

September on the Space Coast serves as the most anticipated and predictable times of the year for anglers looking to find fish bunched up and feeding happily on finger mullet during their migration south. Silver mullet, snook, and tarpon are just a few of the tropical species of fish migrating north up the Atlantic coast in the spring, spend their summers in the rich estuarine waters of the eastern seaboard fattening up and spawning all summer long, and then forming up for their mass migration south in the fall.

It's hard to predict the magnitude and duration of the mullet run, but since the elimination of gillnets by Florida voters, their populations have exploded. As the baitfish and predators gather and begin to move south along the beaches and through the lagoons, the moon and tides cause them to move in pulses rather than a continuous flow. Therefore, locating schooling baitfish is the key to catching fish. One day a particular location will be loaded with bait and fish, and the next day they will be gone. When searching for schools of bait fish, focus your attention on bait schools bunched up and under pressure in the shallow water and along the beach with your natural indicators being diving pelicans, terns and seagulls, wading shore birds, showering mullet schools and busting fish.

Mullet have an arduous life cycle beginning in the fall of the year when the sexually mature adults (roe mullet) gather in large schools, migrate south and then offshore to their spawning grounds along the Atlantic continental shelf. These aggregations remain in the spawning area from late October through January where the females release over a million eggs on multiple occasions. Once fertilized, the eggs hatch within a few days and the hatchlings are dispersed by the Gulf Stream up the eastern coastline from Florida to North Carolina and beyond. After spending the spring and summer in the coastal estuaries, the adolescents mullet exit their summertime estuarine home on their mass exodus south to the warm waters of south Florida.

On the Indian River, Mosquito, and Banana River Lagoons, look for slot redfish and sea trout to be shadowing schools of finger mullet working south through the estuaries, and for the larger redfish and sea trout staging in the deeper ambush locations like causeways, bridges, creek mouths and points, were schooling baitfish are forced to leave the safety of the shallow flats.

With the hungry predators focusing their attention on finger mullet, anglers should be using both top-water and soft plastic lures matching the main food source. For the deep water situation, the D.O.A. Bait Buster works well, and try the new D.O.A. 4-inch shad around schools of large mullet in shallow water. Mullet are vegetarians, so as they move and feed, they are often shadowed by redfish and sea trout feeding on small baitfish, shrimp and crabs flushed out by the larger mullet moving through the grass. If you are fishing up shallow and the floating widgeon grass is not a problem, tie on your favorite top-water plug and standby for some explosive action.

In and around the beaches, and inlets look for flounder, snook, jack crevelle, bluefish, Spanish mackerel, and oversized redfish ambushing migrating mullet along the beaches and jetties. The snook run has already started along the beach, and will begin to pick up substantially just in time for the opening of snook season on September 1st. Remember, new snook regulations are in effect with a one snook per day bag limit and a 28 to 32-inch slot on Florida's east coast. Also watch for the larger redfish to begin forming up just outside inlets busting on schools of finger mullet forced away from the safety of the shoreline as they attempt to cross the open water or the inlet.

All in all, time is of the essence regardless of where and how you fish the mullet run, so gear up and hit the water before you miss the boat.

Snook from the Beach

The arrival of finger mullet in the surf is the first indicator the time is right, and like any other bait run, matching the hatch is important when targeting beach bombers. It's significant to note snook are primarily nocturnal feeders, so fishing at dusk and first light are the most productive times. Staging in the trough between the beach and the first sandbar, snook will move into wash of the shore break to ambush baitfish. Consequently, a fast action medium heavy spinning rod equipped with a 4000 series spinning reel sufficient tackle, because there is no need to cast beyond the first sandbar. As for line and leader, I suggest a minimum of 150 yards of 20-pound braided line with a 40 to 50 pound fluorocarbon leader to counter the sharpness of a snook's gill plates.

Lure Fishing:

When selecting a lure or fly, remember to match the hatch in size and color. It is also important when casting lures or flies to work the shore wash by casting parallel to the beach, as must snook are caught less than 20 feet from the water's edge. Several lures that have worked well for me in the past are the Rapala X-Rap in silver and olive green colors, or DOA's Shallow Running Baitbuster, 5.5" Big Fish Lure, Swimming Mullet or Terror Eyes. As stated earlier, wade out about knee deep, cast parallel to the beach, and us a steady slow retrieval as though your lure is a finger mullet swimming along the edge.

Bait Fishing:

In many cases when fishing for beach snook, nothing beats a freshly caught live finger mullet, so be sure to bring your cast net, bait bucket and aerator. For my live bait rig, I start by tying in about 30 inches of 40 pound fluorocarbon leader. Next, I slid on a one ounce barrel sinker and tie in a #2 circle hook. I then finish the rig by adding a split shot to the line about 8 inches from the hook. This rig will allow the mullet to free swim, and as the tide carries your bait down current along the beach, walk along with it as the sinker slowly rolls down the beach, keeping it in the strike zone longer.

Captain Tom Van Horn